National policies vs. context-specific realities: how diverse municipalities respond to anti-deforestation policies in the Brazilian Amazon?

Authors: Paulo Massoca*, Indiana University
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, South America, Qualitative Research
Keywords: institutional analysis, deforestation, Amazon, environmental policy, mesoscale, Brazil
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The national anti-deforestation agenda implemented in Brazil in 2004 played a crucial role in its progress towards halting Amazonian deforestation. The deforestation blacklist has been pointed out as one innovative policy instrument in that context. By targeting monitoring and sanctioning actions at the municipality scale, the blacklist policy requires cooperation among local actors towards controlling deforestation and geocoding landholdings. Despite promising results, most municipalities remain blacklisted.
My study investigates how that regional policy has interacted temporal and spatially with diverse local realities. I draw upon a cross-sectional analysis framing four municipalities across a spatial gradient depicting the deforestation frontier in the state of Pará, northeastern Amazon. By using secondary data, satellite imagery, and local stakeholders’ interviews, I assess how the colonization history related to the frontier expansion has shaped municipalities and their ability to cope with the blacklist policy. I build upon the Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework to organize and identify the context-specific attributes – biophysical, social, economic, and political – mediating local responses towards the blacklist. Additionally, I examine how those responses have interacted across municipalities, government levels, and parallel initiatives to change the incentives at stake for collective action in different places over time.
This study highlights the benefits that a multi-method approach brings to understanding the role of local realities in tackling deforestation, particularly at an often-overlooked mesoscale such as the municipality. Finally, it reveals the limitations of one-size-fits-all policies implemented in large and diverse social-ecological systems experiencing rapid transformation such as the Amazon.

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